The Journeyman

You know where to stand, at 06:45,
on that concrete and slab pier,
above the meadow where I walk
into that sunrise,

which you will travel towards,
irritated by its flicker at speed
and jealous of my steps
through dew grass,

and further irritated by these,
my slow observations
of high-wire catching,
weighted, cobwebs,

as you journey into the Bridge,
on a service which sucks
out your life,
out of which
no holiday survives.

Theft

No,

that is not your shadow
which you make a claim upon:

it is off the same sun,
but from another country.

That shadow is of you,
but not yours,

it is land-grabbed
from the owner,

overhead,

from the same place,
as other places,

but, without any care
for border crossings.

The Temporary Couple

They rode in that lift,
on their mirror-checked trip,
to the honeymoon suite,
but not to sleep;

this temporary couple,
married, untroubled,
by the weight on fingers
of their wedding rings:

Bar-acquaintance, to this,
their lift-locked kiss,
divorcing the guilt
to succeed.

The Tease

I cannot recall her name,
pretty as she was,
taking me on that crossing
to the island, the other side,

holding my hand,
a new experience,
of other’s bone and flesh,
before only my own:

She made me balance, barefoot,
with my shoes strung, because
the weir head, a concrete slab,
was our submerged bridge,

rushed cold by the constant
flowed inches of water;
then we were there,
over, into the skinny woods,

no tree much older than her,
she being older than I,
in amongst tight saplings,
and there she pushed me,

against a thin trunk.
We called them ‘snogs’,
her breath inside me,
and her roaming tongue,

as foreign as a thick snake,
it performed a dance,
charming me, hardening me,
but it was then stopped:

A laugh, a man watched,
and she touched again,
to feel her effect on me,
and they walked away.

Distances

awake at 3.30
where you sleep
writing at 5.30
here in the east
to the wired hum
of the ceiling fan
my breath circulates
as pre-planned
to assist my sleep
in this Israeli heat
which at midday
will force my retreat
but now disturbed
by my body’s pain
my dreams      my freedom
are gone again
until I return
to my forced collapse
this mid-afternoon
pain-free       relaxed
under sleep’s drug
I’ll relish       once more
my prior state
far time zones before

https://www.whitehelmets.org/


Dusted by the fallout,
now grit-showered,
the weight of white
on their protection,
on their masked faces,
still ringing in the ears
of their hearing,
hours after digging,
each child-cried to find:
A short limb of victory,
as they fight war’s
finger-choke:
They wage their own,
without weapons,
but pictures.

https://www.whitehelmets.org/


 

Flight LGW 8365 to Bari

The couple stood,
him a gruff man,
she with her layered,
read-long suntan:

There holding up all,
at the boarding gate,
demanding to stand,
and to debate

their low place stood
in the boarding queue:
We paid for priority,
that’s what we do!

I swayed behind him,
on my wobbling body,
his complaints were valid,
but manners quite shoddy.

On the return flight,
we watched with a smile,
them embark from the front
jumped to first in line:

Paid for Priority,
they marched to the gate,
and EasyJet profited,
from their not wanting to wait.

A Dance

It will slow down,
our promenade,
that we are pacing
to ever-last,

on this dance floor,
where we step,
to a song which
makes you weep;

I’ll hold you after
the last struck chord,
until those notes
are no longer heard,

but without that music
to guide my feet,
from our ballroom
I will have to flee.

Their Waiting

On my screen,
a palm held light,
I am led into Aleppo,
to a hospital,
where the staff stand,
waiting for the rushed
aftermath,
on foot or trolley,
the cradled,
the carried,
the blasted,
the burnt,
the broken,
now entering
this mending place,
where bloodied bodies
are assessed;
here a bandaged baby
delivers its screams,
as loud as
the now-bereaved;
torches are
a switched solution
with the power cuts,
in this hospital,
which provides
a temporary fix
of things.

The Sun Dial


Our potted approach, by uneven kerbs of stones,
to a solitude, this sun-aligned home:

It took a thousand paces to measure the olive grove,
stepped, metres-squared, hectares, in Ostuni,

at a surveyor’s pace across rock-tilled soil,
along the perimeter and back to the starting point,

where the building is rooted between trees,
the house, the grove’s only fixed shade-maker,

where shadows are not altered, not by leaf growth,
not by bough collapse, not by plough,

but constructed, like the conceit of time,
over God’s rough footings, instead, now telling the false hour

by the drawn-line’s shady cower: And, as if to throw more doubt
on His creation, they even command the water:

a blue rectangle of fifty lengths, measured out in wave slaps,
off an English breast stroke, as an echo, the puffs of breaths.

The coal-black dog hunts down lucertole,
those too-quick-Italian-for-lizards,

hid under unearthed rocks, those rotor-turned,
their blank faces bleached, but not sunburnt.


 

Return Ticket

I have 
booked, again,
a return to
that dry place,

where his death
in the holidays
killed my faith
in families,

seven years 
before,
and I am still
not ready

to fly there,
to be my brother’s
ghost,
to be mistaken

for him
when shopping,
or standing,
being Chris

for those
people,
who insist
I am him.

Happy Families

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” — From Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

Published on Facebook,
a happy deal of cards,
a knave-free life,
for his re-fixed wife,

whilst we looking ‘Likers’
know the truth –
no honest comments,
because that’d be rude:

We transmit our pleasure,
but rarely the pain,
eighteen-rated marriages
are never Facebook-explained.

Bluebirds Over

A programme of contrails for Eastbourne,
held over, circled, then the low-flown
aircraft burst through the scuttled wisps of nimbus.

Above the beach of shingle – levelled by pop-up chairs,
and picnic squares, of towels and blankets
(for dads’ brief nap) –

the crowds watch, stiff-necked
by aircraft performing overhead,
deafened by the scream of a Eurofighter.

Mutterings in the afternoon bar
slightly sour the mood,
thick racism in those heat-slowed voices,

and they would rather have Spitfires,
than any recently banked, now gone,
European accord.

Prelude

A locking up, that is my take home
from the prelude of last night’s dream:

I was in a workplace, which I walked through
in my dressing gown, obviously, and, suddenly,

each terminal was beyond my ability to use,
each terminal then being already used,

no seat, no desk, an anticipation
of my future, my redundancy.

They found me, in that dream, hobbling,
and returned me intact, assurances that

I was welcome back.

As long as I am wanted, for what I can,
not given space, because of what I can’t.

Rotation

Drive east out of Ringmer,
then turn left, before Earwig Corner,
accelerate on hedgerows’ chase
– parallel to Will Craig’s place;

there, on the driver’s side,
fields turn to skipped Caburn,
and your breath, to then be taken,
by the county’s only rotations

of three-armed grace,
under over-blown blades:
You now accelerate, drop-thrilled,
past the singing windmill’s hill,

and over, and down,
beyond the tilted crown,
across the bucked landscape,
on lanes, bough-scraped:

The hard-driven route,
gear-stick, de-clutched,
but then slowed by the stopped
harvester,
that wide-load between weather.